Preparing to Put It All On (the) Line

To prepare for the introduction of legal online poker in Nevada later this year, company executives and regulators met at UNLV on May 18 to discuss how to regulate the business. Keeping the reigns on online activities isn’t easy, as the federal government has shown by its repeated failures to prevent us from playing poker on offshore websites. But Nevada regulators hope that if they can figure out how to manage online gaming, it will become a major new industry here.

Audience members at the symposium asked tough questions, pointing out that real-world standards often won’t work for online gaming, since some standards can’t be enforced through technology.

After a presenter explained detailed age-verification procedures to prevent children from creating accounts on gaming sites, an audience member asked if there was any way to prevent a parent from setting up an account for a teenager. The presenter politely dodged the question.

When a technical solution is possible, it still might not be feasible for political reasons. For example, several services on the Internet enable users to appear to be somewhere other than where they really are, so as to circumvent location-verification systems. In theory, governments could make these services illegal, which would at least drive them underground and make them harder to find.

But these services help people bypass the attempts of authoritarian foreign governments to restrict information, so shutting the sites down could do more harm than good. As a result, gambling sites may someday have to accept that if customers are gambling honestly with their own money, the site shouldn’t care where they’re logging in.

Some of the problems discussed don’t have solutions yet, but people were asking smart questions— and that shows the conversation is moving in the right direction.